Discussion begins on new financial plan

Wilma Boyd, chair of White Rock
Wilma Boyd, chair of White Rock's environmental committee, appeals to council members to consider more than a dozen requests her group came up with to address environmental issues in the city when finalizing the new financial plan.
— image credit: Tracy Holmes photo

If White Rock hires an arts and culture manager next July, residents will see their 2013 tax bill climb by an additional .2 per cent, the city’s financial services director said last week.

Sandra Kurylo, in presenting the city’s draft financial plan for public comment, noted the draft plan currently proposes a 2.8 per cent increase – but that the boost to three per cent would still be lower than the 3.94 per cent that had been predicted a year ago.

The latest number was calculated in response to a request the previous week for staff to look at the options for creating the new management position – a role members of the city’s Arts Economic Task Force say is vital in building the city as an arts and culture destination.

If approved, Kurylo recommended the position also be responsible for community recreation.

The detail was among several highlights of the 2013-’17 draft financial plan shared with residents who turned out to the Dec. 3 meeting; fewer than a dozen attended.

Kurylo told of budget adjustments that bring plans for an all-abilities playground on the waterfront forward to 2013, subject to fundraising. The playground is a pet project of the White Rock firefighters, who have been fundraising for more than a year.

And, funds that had been earmarked to install utility meters in the Centre for Active Living – $120,000 – have been replaced with $10,000 to hire a consultant to more precisely define the utility usage that can be attributed to the centre’s tenants.

That change arose from comments a week prior by Mayor Wayne Baldwin, who described spending $120,000 to address the problem – of inaccurate bill-splitting between the centre and the Peace Arch Curling Club – as “not appropriate for the value.”

“It should have been done, it’s not done, but let’s not be stupid about it,” Baldwin had said.

Baldwin estimated the oversight in construction of the new facility means billing is off by $4,000-$5,000 annually.

Other comments heard the previous week included a question by Coun. Al Campbell about how a proposed 3.94 per cent increase was reduced to 2.8 per cent.

“We left that room thinking that was the right thing to do,” Campbell said. “The reality is, we need this money.

“I’m just wondering why we do this to ourselves each year.”

Residents who spoke Dec. 3 questioned what the city is doing to make sure owners of illegal secondary suites are paying their share; why a parks-maintenance request wasn’t fully funded; if sidewalks along Johnston Road will be fixed; and why funds to address any of the environment committee’s wish list couldn’t be seen.

Environment committee chair Wilma Boyd said the city should hire an environmental co-ordinator.

“Most communities around us actually have one,” Boyd said.

She said money is spent on consultants every time an environmental issue arises, and that a dedicated person would be familiar with issues and could serve as a resource for all city departments.

Boyd also noted signage advising of the area’s importance to Harlequin ducks is needed.

Other highlights noted by Kurylo include a plan to spend $32.5 million on capital projects over the next five years. Those projects include extending the promenade west to Coldicutt Ravine and installing underground wiring along Marine Drive from High Street to Finlay Street.

Coun. Grant Meyer told Peace Arch News last month that he was "thrilled" to see the promenade extension on the books. He has been pushing for it since he took office four years ago.

The work requires approval by BNSF, Kurylo noted. As well, the city would have to borrow $730,000 to pay for associated drainage costs.

The city's proposed financial plan bylaw is expected to come to council for first, second and third reading on Dec. 17.

If given final approval on Jan. 14, residents will see an average of $102 increase to their tax bill; those living in strata units will see their bills go up by $41.



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